NASCAR chair­man doesn’t ex­pect fall­out from fight

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

Kyle Busch had a gash on his fore­head and blood running down his nose when he promised pay­back to Joey Logano. Busch had gone af­ter Logano, re­sult­ing in a brief pos­trace brawl on pit road whose video played on TMZ, the “To­day Show” and other non-sports out­lets.

The tus­sle shoved NASCAR into talk Monday along­side the NCAA Tour­na­ment, be­cause, whether NASCAR liked it or not, Busch’s get­ting pum­meled by Logano’s crew is the last­ing mem­ory of Sun­day’s race at Las Ve­gas.

As NASCAR tries changes to the points for­mat and slicker mar­ket­ing to liven up its strug­gling prod­uct, Sun­day showed the sport’s main­stream au­di­ence mainly wants drama in any form. The race’s drama — a late cau­tion nearly cost Martin Truex Jr. the vic­tory, Brad Ke­selowski lost be­cause of a car part fail­ure, and his dis­abled car likely led to the Busch-Logano wreck — took a back­seat to the fight.

In­side the rac­ing bub­ble, all of this is both a dream come true and a night­mare.

NASCAR doesn’t want to be known for brawl­ing, and its drivers don’t par­tic­u­larly en­joy the scru­tiny or pun­ish­ment that comes from bad be­hav­ior. But this sport thrives when it has ri­val­ries.

NASCAR Chair­man Brian France sug­gested the drivers aren’t likely to re­ceive harsh penal­ties.

“We just shouldn’t come out of our chairs over this,” France said Monday on Sir­iusXM NASCAR Ra­dio. “The pres­sure on these guys to­day is so dif­fi­cult. So it shouldn’t sur­prise any­body that ev­ery once in a while, some­body is go­ing to boil over.”

Busch felt that Logano wrecked him as the two raced past Ke­selowski’s car, so he walked down pit road af­ter­ward, leav­ing most of his Joe Gibbs Rac­ing crew be­hind, and sought out Logano. Busch went in swing­ing.

Logano in­sists he wasn’t hit, video is in­con­clu­sive, but Busch’s walk­ing into a group of Team Penske em­ploy­ees was a recipe for dis­as­ter. Penske crew mem­bers pulled Busch away, got him to the ground and, in that scrum, blood­ied his head.

Car owner Roger Penske has said his em­ploy­ees are there to defuse those sit­u­a­tions — his drivers, Logano and Ke­selowski, have had their share of con­fronta­tions — but the only de­fus­ing came from one pub­lic re­la­tions em­ployee who force­fully pulled Logano out of the fray. Most ev­ery­one else seemed ea­ger to go at Busch.

NASCAR does not in­tend for crew mem­bers to get in­volved in these sit­u­a­tions. It’s for NASCAR of­fi­cials to in­ter­vene, and ul­ti­mately a pair of NASCAR em­ploy­ees pulled Busch from the pile.

Ke­selowski, who was punched in the face by Jeff Gor­don in a 2014 scrum of team mem­bers, noted the is­sue on Twit­ter. “Fight­ing in Motorsport is dumb,” he tweeted. “It al­ways turns into a pile and your own guys hit each other. At least in hockey they are good at it.”

Al­though Busch pledged to get re­venge, France be­lieves the blow­back from a feud be­tween Busch team­mate Matt Kenseth and Logano will put an end to pos­si­ble pay­back. NASCAR sus­pended Kenseth for two play­off races in 2015 af­ter he wrecked Logano in a re­tal­ia­tory move.

“There will be no re­tal­i­a­tion,” France told Sir­ius. “The drivers un­der­stand what we did a cou­ple of years ago at Martinsville, that is un­ac­cept­able. So what hap­pens on the track, good or for bad for one driver or an­other, that’s where it stays, and we move on to the next event.”

Kyle Busch (left) and Joey Logano prob­a­bly will not re­ceive harsh penal­ties.

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